Eliminating Melamine Chip-Out

Suggestions for blade choice and equipment tweaks that will help reduce chip-out when cutting melamine on the table saw. May 6, 2010

The majority of our cutting is done by another shop, but we sometimes need to cut our own melamine. This is done on a Powermatic 66 table saw and a Freud Lu97r010 10" double sided melamine blade. Even after the usual adjustments of a zero clearance insert, square the blade, parallel the fence with the blade, adjust the blade height, I get more chipping on the bottom than I like. Without buying other equipment or a scoring attachment, is there a better blade out there?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor A:
I'd put a dial indicator on the mounted blade and rotate all the way around. If your mounting (clamping flanges) are not perfect, it can create a wobble in the blade that would create chip-out even while using a zero clearance insert. I've had a lot of good feedback on my melamine blades made by Popular Tools in San Antonio Texas.

From contributor J:
I haven’t cut material in a long time, but when I was on a saw I would use a set of blade stabilizers. It was a metal machined blank maybe 5” or 6” in diameter, one on each side of the blade. It would require you to readjust your fence measure because it would move the blade the thickness of the plate. It would help any blade wobble and help the chipping problem.

Another solution would be to try different blades - some work better than others. The manufacture of the melamine also has a lot to do with the cutting. Some of the board that is out there chips badly even on a good beam saw using a scoring blade. The last thing to try was to overcut 1-2 mm then come back and make a clean cut running very slowly using the cleanest, sharpest blade I had.

From contributor B:
Try the Amana #MB10800. I've always used it with a blade stabilizer, though I couldn't tell you for sure that the stabilizer made a difference. Very good cuts on both faces of melamine. As with anything, you've got to keep it sharp.

From contributor F:
I find that no matter how good and sharp the blade is or how fresh the zero clearance insert, the feed speed is a bit factor in the quality of the bottom edge. The slower the feed, the better the cut. I am afraid the only way around that is a scoring setup.

From contributor Y:
If you want a clean cut on both sides of melamine, you need a scoring blade. Since you are using a standard table saw without scoring, you will have to raise the blade about 2-3mm and score each cut first.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for the great suggestions. I'm not finding any measurable wobble in the blade. I already have a set of stabilizers that I'll add; it won't make matters any worse. For the degree of chipping that I'm getting, I don't think I'll try scoring one side first, except on a few select cuts. I will be trying a different blade as suggested to see if there is an improvement. My blades have been resharpened, so I'm thinking this may be part of the problem. The blades are old enough now I don't remember how clean the original cut was.

I am thinking about adding the scoring attachment a little later on. How time consuming is it to attach and remove?

From contributor F:
I don't know about scoring with a standard table saw. Scoring blades are set for a climb cut rotation. In my experience, setting the blade just a hair above the table for a light pass doesn't improve the chipping problem.

From contributor M:
Forrest Duraline is your solution. Use a 5" Forrest stiffener (not a Freud/Amana 3 1/2").
The blade is the key, not the table insert. You should be able to cut without the table insert. They have 40 degree ground alt bevel teeth. We use one exclusively on our panel saw for pre-finished plywood.

From contributor E:
Before I had my slider with scoring, I used an FS Tool Hi-ATB 80 tooth blade on my tablesaw. It worked great for about 10 sheets, then started to chip out a little, and by 20 sheets it was in desperate need of sharpening.

From contributor S:
I use FSTOOL SM6251, have 5 of them, keep them in rotation. When melamine doors/drawers/panels need to be cut I use a fresh blade for that only. When it shows signs of chip out I let that blade cut cases and open a new one. The 5 blades last me at least 6 months without any sharpening, sometimes more. Just depends on how much cutting I really do and what the material is. Some melamine has hardwood core which will give you chip out sooner. I have been more than happy with this blade. The blades are pricey but I won't use anything else now.

From contributor H:
Popular part # lm1080. 10" 80 tooth hatb grind with a -5 degree hook will work very well for you, at $84.00.

From contributor C:
You may want to look into the modulus 2000 scoring unit. It's not cheap ($400-500), but neither is a full-fledged Altendorf! It will eliminate chip out without resorting to all those other crazy methods like taping, pre-scoring with a utility knife, buying pre-cut panels from Home Depot.

From the original questioner:
I am considering adding the scoring attachment as soon as possible. Does anyone have experience with the scoring attachment that can give me some insight into:
1. How long does it take to set up and remove?
2. Is it practical to set it up and remove on a regular basis, or is it better to plan on leaving it set up permanently?

3. Are matching blades available for the scoring blade and the table saw blade? I am referring to the kerf width as I believe they will need to match to get a good edge on the melamine?
4. Can you still use the scoring attachment with a crosscutting sled?

From contributor E:
3) Scoring blades are either 2 pieces, like a dado, where you add shims to adjust the width of the score to just slightly wider than the main blade's kerf, or with tapered teeth, so as you raise the blade up, the kerf gets wider. This type of scoring blade is typically only used on beam saws, though, as they require the material to be held tight to the table. For cutting single sheets, you want to use the split type blade.

From contributor C:
It took me about 2 hours because I had to grind out part of the mouth to accommodate the scoring part of the blade. I have never moved it since it'll cut regular wood as well, although it does leave a slight dado because the scoring blades work best if they make a slightly larger cut before the main blade blows through the sheet. I use an Exaktor sliding table for crosscutting full sized sheets. I'm not sure if the blade can be raised high enough to allow the scoring blades to clear the sled's bottom unless you use really thin material. I just wish there were a way to make a ZCI for it since small pieces can fall through and jam up the scoring blade belt...

From the original questioner:
Now that the grinding is done, and you wouldn't have to repeat that part of the process, how long do you think it would take to remove it and later reattach it? I use my saw for too many other things to leave it set up all the time, so I'm trying to get some idea of what may be ahead. I think I would be fine not using the attachment with the crosscut sled. These are usually shelf cuts which are more forgiving than when I cut my uprights (verticals).

From contributor P:
I have a Hammer K3L Expert sliding table scoring saw. I was never able to really adjust the scoring blade to be dead on in relation to the main blade. On the recommendation of a friend who has an SCMI sliding table/scoring saw, I abandoned use of the scoring blade, as he did. He recommended using a very good main blade.

My Forrest melamine blade does a superb job, even on the bottom of the melamine panel. (when it's sharp... I send the blades back to Forrest, not to a local shop, for sharpening). I also find that the blade should rise above the top of the melamine panel about 5/8"; that seems the best angle for a good cut top and bottom of the panel.

From contributor V:
I use a Forrest Duraline Hi ATB 80 tooth blade, along with a zero clearance insert, and have little or no chipping on either vc plywood or melamine coated particleboard. But I do have to slow the feed rate down, or on vc ply, I'll get tearout.